Alastair Cook revealed he has been considering retirement for the last six months.
England’s record run-scorer announced he will call time on his international career after the fifth Test with India at the Oval this week.
Cook said: “It’s hard to put it into words but over the last six months there have been signs in my mind this was going to happen.
“I always had been mentally tough and had that edge to everything I’ve done and that edge had kind of gone.”
The 33-year-old eventually made the decision ahead of last week’s fourth Test with India, where England secured a series win.
He informed captain Joe Root before the game and head coach Trevor Bayliss while it was going on, but the rest of the squad found out afterwards.
“I told Rooty before the game and then told Trevor during the game,” Cook said.
“I was a couple of a drinks in which I needed to be otherwise I would have cried more than I actually did. I managed to hold it together.
“At the end of the game I said, ‘It might be good news, it might be sad for some, it might be happy for others but it’s time and I have done my bit. I will play one more game’.
“There was a little bit of silence, then Mo (Ali) said something, everybody laughed and then it was forgotten about.
“In this day and age it’s very hard to keep anything quiet.
“If it was 2-2 I would have kept my mouth shut. But when you are asked questions it is hard to lie.
“There might be a bit of fuss around me, if it was 2-2 I would have kept my mouth shut, but when you have made that decision in your mind it is always playing on your mind.”
Cook will leave the game as the country’s most decorated player, even if he was not as talented as some of his contemporaries.
“I can look back and say, I became the best I could become, that actually means quite a lot to me,” he said.
“I have never been the most talented cricketer, I don’t pretend I was but I definitely think I got everything out of my ability.
“Everyone was talking as if I’d died. It’s nice when you hear so many nice words said about you. The last couple of days I have been back at home but I had a look last night.
“Hopefully this week can go well, score some runs and then I can go. It would be fantastic, it would be great for England to win, 4-1 sounds better than 3-2, and if I can play a really good innings that would be fantastic.”
Cook will continue playing for Essex after the club announced the left-hander had signed a new three-year deal.
Head coach Anthony McGrath said on Essex’s official website: “It’s great news that Cooky has committed his future to the club.
“He’s one of the best batsmen in the world and he’s so important for us both on and off the pitch. He’s a great person to have around the club and is a great role model for the young players coming through.
“He also has the ability to change a game with his batting and that’s something everyone wants in their team.”
But just how do England go about replacing their all-time record run-scorer and arguably their greatest-ever batsman?
The England selectors face a big decision ahead of three Test matches in Sri Lanka in November – as well as the Ashes on the horizon next summer – while they may also need to fill two opening positions moving forward, with Keaton Jennings short of runs and in a last chance saloon situation heading into the final match with India.
Here, our writers weigh up what England will do:
Stuart Appleby says England will change both opening positions: Even if he does get a score in the last Test, there is a feeling that Keaton Jennings is not the right man for the job moving forward and has failed to grasp his second-coming in Test cricket.
Short of confidence at the crease, it would be a wise move to drop Jennings for the winter and consider both Surrey’s Rory Burns and Kent’s experienced batsman Joe Denly to fill the void. At 28 and 32, respectively, they know their games inside out and at least one of them deserves a chance at Test level – as opposed to treading old ground with the likes of James Vince, Dawid Malan or Mark Stoneman. Denly also has previous ODI and T20 international experience.
The alternative option, and a good one at that, would be to hand Jonny Bairstow an opener’s berth – promoting him from No5 – after his apparent demotion from possession of the wicket-keeping gloves, in favour of Jos Buttler. That would be a statement of intent by the selectors to show to the player how important he is, given his apparent sulk at the Ageas Bowl. He is more than capable of moving up and has batted there before.
Alex Broun says Mark Stoneman should be recalled: I am a firm believer that a lot of England’s problems are self-inflicted – chopping and changing personnel constantly and being too hasty to use the axe. A good example is Mark Stoneman who looked solid and technically sound against Australia late last year but was unceremoniously dumped for Jennings after the first Test against Pakistan in May.
Both 31-year-old Stoneman and 26-year-old Jennings have now played 11 Tests each – so it is the perfect time to compare them – and guess who comes out on top? Stoneman, comfortably. Both men have played 20 innings with Stoneman edging the runs scored – 526 to 453 – and average 27.68 to 22.65.
True Keaton has one century to his name – 112 on debut against India in Mumbai in December 2016 – but Stoneman has five 50s. Jennings has not scored a 50 since Chennai in his second Test. Yes Stoneman has not gone on to reach three figures, his highest score is just 60, but Jennings in current form does not look like reaching 100 either.
To me Stoneman is a much more reliable and consistent opener than the flakey Jennings, so it is time to rotate back to the Durham man for the tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies – and my choice to partner him would be Jonny Bairstow, who would enjoy the greater responsibility now he has been relieved off his keeping duties.
Ajit Vijaykumar says England must persist with Keaton Jennings: England might be tempted to look at more promising options but with a proven performer like Cook on his way out, it would be prudent to have one stable(ish) option at the the top. Jennings is by no means the best opener in Test cricket but he has weathered quite the storm against a potent Indian pace attack and has to decent knocks to show for his effort.
His 42 in the first Test and 36 in the second innings of the fourth had a lot of quality. England were trailing in the second innings in Southampton but Jennings showed a lot more application than Cook, bringing back memories of his debut century in Mumbai. Any opener who scores a ton on debut in India and plays a critical role in the second innings of a series deciding Test deserves a longer run.
At the other end, Surrey’s Burns looks the best among the lot in England. He has been scoring runs season after season at the top of the order and at 28 years of age, should be in peak condition fitness wise and cricketing wise. Both openers should be given five or seven Tests to prove themselves without any questions asked and be allowed to play with freedom. Then, England might get one or maybe two long-term opening options.
Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi and India great Sachin Tendulkar were among the star names who congratulated Alastair Cook after the England batsman announced his retirement from international cricket following the fifth Test against India.
Cook will retire with more than 12,000 Test runs under his belt and already has 32 Test centuries. He is a four-time Ashes winner and led rare Test series wins in India and Australia.
Afridi called Cook a “wonderful player who was a wonderful ambassador of the game” in his tweet while Tendulkar said “Alastair Cook has been one of the finest batsmen to have represented England, and his conduct on-field and off it, has been impeccable.”
In his Instagram post, former England batsman Paul Collingwood hailed the selfless batting of Cook. “It was a pleasure being out in the middle when you scored a lot of your hundreds for England. Thanks for fighting so hard,” Collingwood said in his post.
Gary Lineker also congratulated Cook, calling him “one of the greatest opening batsmen ever to have donned a pair of pads and gloves.”